The fragile coral reef that helps define life in the Florida Keys has seen better days, but reports of its demise are greatly exaggerated, one local expert points out.
"There is room for improvement, but it's not dead," said Sean Morton, superintendent of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. "It's certainly still a very productive ecosystem. That's what we want to promote for the future and we can take certain actions to get us on the right path."
The state of the reef and future plans for preservation will likely land on the topic list for an event this week sponsored by the nonprofit Community Foundation of the Florida Keys.
Morton is among a panel of Keys environmental insiders set to help host the "Future Forum on the Environment," at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center located at the Truman Waterfront.
"We've got an economy based on what people do out in the water and that depends on a healthy environment," Morton said. "It's certainly been declining. We haven't seen the dramatic die-off in recent years."
On Thursday, Morton will join panelists Alison Higgins, the city's sustainability coordinator; Chris Belland, CEO of Historic Tours of America; environmental consultant Ed Russo; and Rhonda Haag, Monroe County sustainability program manager.
"We're coming up with new solutions all the time," said Higgins, hired a year ago to install the city's new pledge to promote environmental health. "The only way to get there is to talk about the problems, not as insurmountable obstacles but as problems to be solved. We're really resourceful down here. We can figure this out."
The forum is free but seating is limited and organizers ask for registration. Call 305-292-1502 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.